By Duncan Mackay
British Sports Internet Writer of the Year

altSeptember 28 - Sebastian Coe today dismissed claims that London 2012 has decided to finish the Olympic marathons in front of Buckingham Palace rather than the main Stadium in Stratford because it is ashamed of the East End as "ludicrous".


Organisers are set to announce in the next few weeks that the marathons in London 2012 will pass St Paul’s Cathedral, the Houses of Parliament and Tower of London before finishing in the Mall with Buckingham Palace as its backdrop - a route first revealed on insidethegames last month. 

The race walks are also set to be held in central London.

It is a move away from the tradition of the races finishing in the Olympic Stadium and has angered London 2012 Host Boroughs Newham and Tower Hamlets while Rushanara Ali, the MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, has claimed that the change meant that organisers were "embarrassed and ashamed to showcase the area and its people to the world".

"If LOCOG goes ahead with this proposal, the message they send to the world is 'while we are happy to use the vibrancy, dynamism and diversity of the East End of London to win the Olympics bid, we're embarrassed and ashamed to showcase the area and its people to the world'," said Ali.

A petition and Facebook protest group have been now launched by Tower Hamlets Council, who claim that Coe had promised them that the marathons would pass through their area.

A statement said: "Olympic organisers will have broken their promise to thousands of Tower Hamlets residents if they decide to redirect the marathon route to West London.

"Bit by bit the Olympic organisers have chipped away at the Borough’s involvement.

"The basketball was moved out of the Borough for cost reasons in 2008 and the walking race route, which would have taken in the newly restored Victoria Park, has been changed."

The London Thames Gateway Development Corporation (LTGDC), the Government's lead regeneration agency for East London, has described the decision not to route the marathons and walks through that area as a "missed opportunity" to promote the region as a key investment destination to international investors.

"Moving the Olympic route away from East London will take the focus away from the very area where international investors need to be concentrated on," said Patrick Edwards, head of communications for the LTGDC.

"It is the regeneration equivalent of missing a shot at an open goal of attracting much needed private investment into the area."

Earlier this year the LTGDC had announced the start of improvement works to Stratford High Street as part of the High Street 2012 initiative and hoped that the marathon passing it would help showcase the area.

altBut Coe (pictured), the chairman of London 2012, has fiercely defended the planned routes for the marathon and walks, which were designed by organisers of the annual London Marathon and were officially signed off last week by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).

"This is not a beauty contest and it would be ludicrous to suggest that we are ashamed of the East End," said Coe, who met with Ali during the Labour Party Conference in Manchester today.

"We wouldn't have created an Olympic Games that in large part is delivered in the East End with all the legacies if that were the case."

It will be the second time in three Olympics that the marathon have not finished in the main stadium.

The races in Athens in 2004 finished in the Panathenaic Stadium, the arena which hosted the first modern Olympics in 1896.

The races at the World Championships in Berlin last year also did not end in the main Stadium and instead finished under the Brandenburg Gate.

"This is a purely operational issue," said Coe.

"This has nothing to do with iconic landmarks, or with the East End of London or with broadcasting.

"It's about the staging across 16 days of effectively 52 individual world championships and trying to create the matrix that allows you to have a marathon at the same time as other events without cutting across the ability of the competitors and spectators to get there."

Coe promised the Olympic Torch Relay will go through East London.

"It should be a much more impactful moment than a small marathon field running through that Borough," Coe said.

"The Olympic marathon is not like the London Marathon - the field is only about 100 runners."

Contact the writer of this story at [email protected] 

Related stories
August 2010:
 Olympic marathon set to feature London's iconic landmarks